4 April 2012 marks 50 years since five boats set off from Hong Kong to race to Manila in the Philippines. Amongst them, the five pioneering boats possessed one VHF radio, no trackers, no computer aided navigation and no weather routing subscriptions – the intervening years have seen many changes.
The competitors were escorted to the limit of Hong Kong waters by the Hong Kong Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve, then continued unaccompanied until reaching Corrigedor, where in 1962 the finish line was manned by the Philippine Navy. Chris von Sydow’s Reverie took line honours in a time of 107h 29m 57s, completely ignorant of the progress of the rest of the fleet.
Fast forward to 2012, and the Rolex China Sea Race is a fully fledged Category 1 offshore race, which since 1996 has finished in Subic Bay, some 50km north of Corrigedor. The fleet of around 40 boats will be fully equipped with the latest safety equipment and all will carry a Yellowbrick tracker unit which will update race management and ocean racing fans with the fleet’s positions every 30 minutes.
Celebrating the golden anniversary of one of Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club’s best loved events, Commodore Ambrose Lo said, '50 years is a significant milestone for any sailing event, and RHKYC is proud that, in that time, the 565nm from Hong Kong to the Philippines has become Asia’s premier offshore race. The Club is particularly pleased to continue its partnership with Rolex S.A. and welcomes its support for this event. Incidentally, this year is also the Year of the Water Dragon, which symbolizes strength and success, so I look forward to making this a brilliant year for everyone involved with the Rolex China Sea Race.'
Some things have not changed, and fifty years on, the Rolex China Sea Race remains a tactically challenging event. The first night of the race features lumpy seas and a stiff breeze. Conditions usually improve the next day and, as competitors near the Philippine coast under brilliant blue skies, the unpredictable coastal breeze often gives line honours candidates a dawn wallow on day three.
The race record of 47h 43m 07s, set in 2000 by Karl Kwok on the Open 60 Beau Geste, still stands. But with a strong IRC racing division which is likely to include defending Line Honours holder, Neil Pryde on his modified Welbourn 52, Hi Fi, together with Maxi Genuine Risk and TP52, FreeFire, Kwok’s 10 year old record could well fall in this golden year.
More info: http://www.rhkyc.org.hk/rolexchinasearace.aspx